Sometimes you just have to cut someone loose to make things better. This is true in personal relationships, business, and politics. The difficult question is always when to say when—when elimination is addition.
Elimination as addition is toughest when it gets personal. Search on “toxic relationships” or “end friendships,” and you will find pages of advice, largely of the pop psychology sort. Underlying that is the perennial problem of people who turn violent, abusive, or so self-destructive that they are beyond our help and damaging the rest of the family or friendships. We all at least know people who have had to, tearfully, cut off a family member or friend.
The summer of 1984, I was part of a seasonal guest services crew, working in Paradise—Washington. The lead cook in the cafeteria, in which I worked, had done felony time for transporting marijuana. One evening, in the barracks, he related how his parents bailed him out the first time he got crosswise of the law but warned him this was the one time. This large, strong man then told how he broke down and cried the night he made that second jail-house call, and his mother told him he was on his own, hanging up. He was a good cook and had some kitchen leadership skill, so I hope his life has gone well, earning reconciliation with the parents who truly loved him. Eliminating family contact was necessary to make the family more secure and to add pressure to the son to turn from his wayward path.
A subset of business literature takes a seemingly contrarian position on customer service. Sometimes, the best business decision is to fire your client, to eliminate bad customers. Design Shack, for website freelancers, offers “5 Signs You Need to Fire Your Client (And How to Do It).” Forbes, more broadly, offers “3 Signs It’s Time To Fire Your Client.” The Design Shack article, pitched to people without a business management background, concludes:
Sometimes you have to fire clients because they are a problem, but there are also other times when you have to let clients go simply because you have more work than you can handle. These firings can be more difficult but will allow you to increase productivity in the long run and provide a better experience for the client elsewhere.
Forbes, pitched to a general business readership offers:
Contrary to the old saying, the customer is not always right. In fact, they are wrong (for you) a lot.
I’m learning that taking on the right clients- and turning away those who are not a match for us- is the difference maker between churning out whiners and creating raving fans.
As a military commander, from 130 to 1,300 personnel, I repeatedly faced the challenge of elimination as addition. I was always, perhaps too much, predisposed to hold on to what I had. There were some clear-cut cases that needed to go, and as I rose from company to battalion level command, there were actual numbers attached and a formula on which I was measured. Truly grasping the formula revealed the source and scope of inherent tensions I had always felt.
Fire a soldier, and you get hit for letting your strength slip. Letting your strength slip is like letting your classroom attendance drop. Dollars attach to butts in seats and boots in formation. In the Guard and Reserve, the commander is also the recruiting commander. That is, there is no centralized organization charged with planning and executing the continual filling of units, complete with rotating service members along from assignment to assignment. Oh, the recruiting offices you see all have Reserve and Guard missions, but the responsibility for growing(!) and maintaining unit strength falls on a young officer who is getting paid “one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer.”
Yet, keeping a soldier who is not meeting an array of standards and requirements is also bad for readiness, suggesting you are taking dollars without delivering a ready soldier for the nation’s defense. This is true, so far as it goes. That is, you may have a feasible plan to fix that soldier, and the shortcoming might be overcome by something as simple as moving the soldier from a position that does not match her Military Occupational Specialty, to one that matches. But, doing that might mean you cannot get her into a very tough-to-get course, qualifying her in that tough-to-fill slot. Before your eyes glaze over, or you chase the rabbit down a hypothetical hole, please understand this was a broad sketch, designed to illustrate competing expectations.
The upshot was that I always had an eye on the changing tide, while loyally supporting the current, near-term organizational effort. As I worked to separate soldiers, I had in the back of my head that the tide would turn and separation packets would suddenly be slowed, or returned with limited waivers, because the net benefit of keeping boots in formation had come back to the fore.
Thinking through the shifting balancing act of managing military readiness unveils the outline of political elimination as addition. Sometimes, a smaller but more coherent caucus has more political efficacy than does a larger “tent” with people scheming and posturing to their own ends, detrimental to the party platform and the party’s public support. We are told over and over of the Reagan rule and we are offered various metrics, that everyone understands to be artificial and subject to gaming. Senator X votes 90% with Party Y! Ah, but the 90% is on non-controversial bills and includes procedural posturing votes. On the two or three core Party Y planks, Senator X has subverted and weakened his party’s legislation.
Sorry, but Party Y may well be better off in the next election cycle not having to explain away their failure to deliver on their core promises. They may add legislative effectiveness by primary elimination, or even a general election loss, provided they have a solid plan to offset that one “loss.” Indeed, if two “mavericks” are rejected, costing seats, and two “stalwarts” pick up seats, the result is obviously not a wash. Party Y is better positioned to realize its core promises, making it all the stronger in the next election cycle.
In the current race, the weekend before the last ballots are cast, and the results are unveiled, it appears likely that the Senate Republican caucus will grow. This is as expected, given the electoral map this year. What is entirely unknown is the outcome of the House races.
Vice President Pence offered cautious optimism and encouragement in the campaign home stretch.
“I think we’re going to expand our majority in the United States Senate, and I think we’re going to hold our Republican majority in the House of Representatives,” Pence told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton.
This balanced President Trump’s warning that Republicans could lose the House.
“It could happen. Could happen. We’re doing very well, and we’re doing really well in the Senate, but could happen,” Trump said at a rally in West Virginia.
“And you know what you do? My whole life, you know what I say? ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll just figure it out,’ ” he continued. “Does that make sense? I’ll figure it out.”
Accordingly, if you wish to punish the Democrats for their craziness, if you want to keep the economy, public safety, and foreign policy rolling in the current direction, every single Republican House candidate is a must vote. On the other hand, there might be one or two Republican Senate candidates who should be made examples of, to make the near-certain majority more focused.
Elimination can be addition, even in political party legislative caucuses, if the electoral function leads to “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” But mind the conditional “if,” as elimination is often just subtraction.